Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among 10 to 24-year-olds. A variety of factors contribute to the intolerable anguish a suicidal student feels, and they may not be able to see the help that is available to them. Parents can play a crucial role by intervening and supporting their child to prevent any more lives lost to suicide.
The first day of school is quickly approaching. Adjusting to a new school, teachers, classes, and people can be difficult. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed and vulnerable.
Will I fit in? Will I find my classes? What if I get lost? What if I can’t make any new friends?
Whether your child is starting middle school or high school, it’s common to have the jitters. Here are some things you can do with your child that will support them through this time of transition.
A History of Content Filtering in Schools
Pornography Filtering & URL List Race
I first began selling web filtering solutions to school IT and Network Administrators in 2004. The CIPA law had recently been passed, so schools were eagerly spending money on filtering appliances to protect their students. The industry was flooded with new companies entering the market, and popular firewalls added web filtering to their UTM lineup.
Back then, schools focused on blocking pornography when selecting a solution. Each vendor pitched that they had more porn sites in their database than other filters, that they blocked the largest number of categories, and that they had better update mechanisms, including “100% human verified” databases. The cat-and-mouse game sales pitch was working well.
Note: Lightspeed Systems’ VP of Marketing has distributed information about our URL categorization technology to 1000s of districts across US including to many of our customers without allowing us to investigate their claims. In our opinion, this breaks norms in the security industry for Responsible Disclosure, potentially breaks norms around advertising without reasonable substantiation, and also brings to question the very motive behind the approach and its relevance to actually helping student safety. Securly is choosing to keep this discussion focused on facts, technology and student safety. Please read our earlier response from Securly’s co-founder/CRO Bharath Madhusudan on this topic.
In this article, we provide a multi-step technical take on all the information being circulated. With facts and data, we proceed to distill truth from competitive marketing. The article is split into the following sections:
- How does Securly’s URL categorization work?
- Video: Our PageScan technology in action.
- Securly’s take on why the information being circulated lacks scientific rigor, and reasonableness in advertising competitive claims.
- Why did Lightspeed’s tests with PageScan fail?
- How would Securly have fared if Lightspeed had used the PageScan cluster?
- Examining the effectiveness of Securly’s PageScan technology against Alexa’s Adult Category of sites using a scientific experimentation framework.
Today, Lightspeed Systems issued the results of an internal competitive study that positions Securly’s and another vendor’s products as inferior in enforcing CIPA compliance.
Our initial instinct was to not respond since it was apparent to us how the market generally reacted. Having said that, the amount of concern coming from our customer and prospect base compels us to issue a fact-based response of who Securly is and why we do what we do. I have organized my response into 3 distinct sections:
- What is student safety, really? With the advent of 1:1 programs, does “CIPA Compliance” and “Student Safety” mean the same thing in the year 2018?
- PageScan – The portion of our product that acts as the first line of defense for inappropriate websites.
- The team behind PageScan and Securly. Why we feel qualified to build security products for K-12.
Since 2015, Auditor and Filter have used AI-based technology to flag messages of grief and bullying in emails, social media posts, and Internet searches. When a concerning message is detected, automated email alerts are sent to the IT admin in that district. But we knew we could do one better. So last September, we released securly:// 24 to the world.
Welcome to our 24 Student Safety Operations. This combines our Auditor and Filter sentiment analysis algorithm with a team of Student Safety Analysts who conduct risk analysis in real time on alerts flagged for suicide, depression, self-harm, and bullying. If the alert indicates imminent danger for the student, our analysts notify designated emergency contacts from the school immediately.
Even better? Our analysts are able to review the student’s previous alerts and search activity to form a more complete picture of the situation. This kind of insight means that we can help a suicidal student who vaguely emailed a friend they were in pain, but searched “how to kill yourself” on Google 5 minutes later.
“Securly has unique insight to student’s online activities and our analysts are trained to use this information to identify students experiencing real threats to their safety,” says Kathy Boehle, Director of Securly’s 24 Student Safety Operations. “Students aren’t always straightforward when communicating via email. Often Securly’s search data can clarify which students are a little sad, and which students are desperate and need immediate help.”
After a few short months, 34 lives have been saved. Here are just a few of those stories:
Summer is just around the corner and you may have already begun planning family vacations and outings. But before they have fun, your kids have to take a little something called final exams [insert scary Halloween-like sounds here].
In 2013, Securly had its humble beginnings as a web filter company with the release of our flagship filter product. Student safety has always been our mission, and something we have prioritized when building and releasing new products and services for the K-12 market. 5 years of releases and launches later, we are not just a web filter company. We are The student safety company. Presenting…5 Years with Securly!
2017 was a year of immense growth for us. Securly now has 70+ employees across California, North Carolina, and India. Our Charlotte and India offices continue to expand, and we moved our HQ in Silicon Valley to a new office 3x the size of our old space.
Our main goal for 2017 was to innovate, innovate, and innovate. And as always, with the intention to secure ubiquitous child safety both at school and at home. In our path to achieving this goal, we pledge to create affordable, innovative products – so that schools and parents never have to compromise on student safety. We accomplished a lot this past year, and are excited to share our new products with you soon. 2018 here we come!
With this free feature, we let teachers become the IT admins of their own classroom. They can track assignments and whitelist/blacklist sites. Classroom works in conjunction with Google Classroom, helping teachers keep students on track to maximize the benefits of EdTech. Sign up for our priority list here.
We’re offering a 24/7 crisis support team because cyberbullying, depression, and self-harm are not bound by a 9-5 schedule. 24 automatically observes a student’s activity on the web, social media, and Youtube. When activity is flagged, a trained staff member will review the context in which it was used and the user’s history for insight into the bigger picture. Able to recognize the nuances of language and critically analyze a user’s history, a human can make determinations that technology may overlook. If flagged activities are cause for alarm, a 24 staff member will alert a counselor in real-time via text or, if necessary, a phone call.
Parents can design an at-home Internet experience that is personalized for their children. Just connect Hub by Securly to your Wi-Fi router and rest assured your kids are browsing safely. Parents can change the filter settings, block any inappropriate sites, set time limits, and receive optional e-mail reports and notifications. Parent Wi-Fi is not affected.
And in case you missed it, here’s a list of other features that make Securly the best web filter:
- Free Chromebook filtering
- Free self-harm detection
- Expanded parents settings
- PageScan – a blacklist that learns to auto-block new, and potentially dangerous content
- Azure AD – Google SSO and on-prem AD support
- Auto Scaling
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